Jason Bloom is a branch manager in Seattle with Guild Mortgage Company and is current statewide president of the Washington Association of Mortgage Professionals (WAMP). National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently spoke with Jason regarding his work with his state’s trade group.
How and why did you get involved with the Washington Association of Mortgage Professionals? Can you share your track to your current leadership role?
I first became involved with WAMP in the early 2000s, when the organization was known as the Washington Association of Mortgage Brokers. As a broker/owner and later a lender/owner, I felt that it was vitally important for me to be engaged in the industry at large. We have always had a vibrant community here in Washington State. Connecting with others in the industry and participating in educational and industry events was and is a way to ensure my growth as a professional.
Over the years, I moved into various leadership positions, including serving as statewide president in 2008 and 2009. After almost a decade of service to WAMP, I stepped down from a leadership role at the end of 2010. In 2014, I was approached to come back onto the board as a director-at-large. I was excited about getting involved with the association once again. It is a fascinating time for the industry. Being in a leadership role is a way for me to support the industry and help ensure that we have a healthy lending environment for consumers and for our industry for many years and decades to come.
Why do you feel members of the mortgage profession in your state should join WAMP?
I believe that the mortgage professionals who have weathered the past 10 years and are still participating in the industry are true professionals. They see what they do as being more than just jobs. These are career-minded folks who want to learn, grow, and advance as professionals. Being a part of an organization such as WAMP, can help them achieve the growth and development that they seek. As for people who maybe first coming into the industry, WAMP can serve the same role for them as well. Ultimately, WAMP wants to help support the professionals in our state industry who work to support their communities and help people with their financial dreams and goals.
What role does WAMP play in the legislative and regulatory environment? Are there any agenda items that you are pursuing at a state level?
WAMP has a long history of legislative and regulatory engagement. This is especially true as it relates to our very healthy working relationship with the State’s Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). It was, in part, this working relationship between industry and agency that lead to new legislation that passed into law loan officer licensing in our state, years before the NMLS and national licensing.
Today, this working relationship still goes strong. Just this past legislative session, WAMP worked with the DFI on House Bill 1048 and its sister Senate Bill 5299. This legislation updates, clarifies and strengthens the DFI’s enforcement, licensing, and examination status as it relates to residential lending. We also supported the DFI’s efforts to enhancing the agency’s ability to pursue crime of mortgage fraud in the residential lending mortgage process.
As an association, we are also supporting the DFI’s efforts to gain accreditation with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). We want to see the DFI continue to be the regulatory agency that oversees our industry in the state of Washington. We believe that having that local presence will continue to ensure a healthy lending environment while also protecting consumers.
What do you see as your most significant accomplishments within WAMP?
Number one is our voice representing mortgage professionals in the state of Washington. This extends to our positive working relationship with the DFI. Number two, for me, would be loan officer licensing. It was hugely important for us. Washington State was a leading proponent of higher standards and barriers to entry to the industry long before it was happening in most other states. I think that it spoke and still speaks volumes about our expectations for elevating our industry to new heights. Number three, and incredibly important to what WAMP is today, is our expanding continuing education programs. With our focused efforts, we are quickly moving to become the number one educational provider to the folks who have mortgage licenses in the state of Washington.
What value does WAMP’s affiliation with NAMB bring to its members?
It is really important to have a voice in Washington, D.C. NAMB speaks for the people in the industry and keeps us updated on how regulatory changes unfold. Having that national presence and being able to engage with legislators and government agencies is vitally important. For example, WAMP has been following and working on the transitional licensing Bill HR 2121. The support of a national organization on important legislation such as this ensures a continued expansion and vibrancy in the industry.
In your opinion, what can be done to bring more young people into mortgage careers?
That’s the $100,000 question. It seems like in every corner of the industry, people are discussing this challenge. And it is a challenge. As is often discussed, the average age of a mortgage professional today is 54-55.
We need to bring in the next generation of professionals, but I believe that many young people are disenfranchised by the industry. Many watched the financial struggle of their parents and saw family and friends losing their homes during the great recession. They point to that and the media framing that took place and say, “I don’t want to be part of the industry that lead to this economic downturn.” So first, we need to educate them.
This generation needs to better understand what took place in a historical context. They also need to know that the companies and professionals in this industry today are positively contributing to an expanding housing market by helping millions of families and individuals realize homeownership. Through education they will see what so many of us see in the industry today, which is having fulfilling careers through helping others.
Second, companies need to invest in true training and mentorship programs. Programs that can provide the kind of time and financial support needed to grow the next generation of mortgage professionals. As we all know, it really takes someone a year to begin to be truly become proficient in this industry. Without this kind of investment, I believe that the industry will continue to struggle in this area.
What is the state of housing like in your state?
Overall, Washington has a healthy housing market. This is especially true in Western Washington, where a lot of companies–especially those in the tech industry–are expanding with well-paying jobs. The challenge facing the market environment is simply a lack of inventory. We have lots of people looking to buy. Unfortunately, not enough homes are coming onto the market fast enough.
In the meantime, as a result of this healthy and vibrant environment, many mortgage companies are coming into the state to do business, though not physically speaking. Currently, we have 13,748 licensed loan originators in Washington State. This is up from 7,500 just a year and a half ago. But 10,483 of these originators are non-Washington State residence. While one can argue that competition in the marketplace is good for consumers, I would suggest that mortgage professionals who live and work in their local communities are better suited to serve and support them.
Phil Hall is managing editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].